Pressure brings best out of ETSU kicker

By Matt Hill
STAR Staff

   JOHNSON CITY -- ETSU place kicker Con Chellis should be an actor when he graduates from college. He has a flare for the dramatics.
   Chellis kicked a 41-yard field goal with no time left in regulation
   Thursday night to give the Bucs a 23-21 win over The Citadel Bulldogs at Memorial Center.
   Ironically, Chellis kicked the winning field goal against Furman last season, a game the Bucs won by the same score. And just like last year, similar circumstances led to the winning kick.
   Just like one year ago, Chellis missed an extra point earlier in the game. This time, it was blocked by The Citadel's Kevin Howard. Chellis also had a blocked field goal during the contest.
   "It's so ironic how similar the situation is," Chellis said. "The score being down by one due to a missed extra point. It was a different circumstance why it was missed, but regardless we were still down by one. It was a lot like the Furman game, but I feel like this was a much more special win. We needed to turn it around and get a win tonight. It would have been hard to rebound from a loss tonight."
   It was a little surprising at first to hear that this was sweeter than the win against the nationally ranked Paladins, but all in all it makes sense. This Buccaneer team has been struggling, now improving to 2-3 overall on the year. They were in desperate need of a win, and Chellis delivered for them.
   "Last year when we played Furman, we were at a point in the season where we were kind of mediocre," Chellis said. "We were trying to get to the next level, and Furman was a good win for us. We kind of felt confident all along that we could beat somebody like Furman.
   "This year, I think we did not have the confidence coming into this game. We had the desire to win, but we didn't have the confidence like we did last year. So being as down as we are, this was 10 times more special."
   It was also special for Chellis due to the fact that he is from the low country of South Carolina. He will definitely have something to say to all his friends back in the palmetto state.
   "I thought about before this game that I had beaten The Citadel twice since I have been here and I haven't talked any trash," Chellis said. "I've been real respectable to my friends down there, and I knew if they came back and beat us tonight that I was going to catch an earful from all of them.
   The kick itself was pretty remarkable, especially considering The Citadel kept calling timeouts to ice him.
   Chellis had a simple solution to take his mind off what The Citadel was doing.
   "The first timeout I just drank some water, and kind of just went off on my own and relaxed a little bit," Chellis said. "I looked up in the stands and saw my dad pacing all over the place, and was probably 10 times more nervous than I was. The second timeout I just went to talk to some of the guys and get my mind off things."
   ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton has a lot of confidence in his star kicker.
   "Con Chellis is a winner," Hamilton said. "I hope the same scenario happens the next six weeks. I hope he'll be on the field with a chance to kick it through."
   Credit for the winning kick should also go to a young man who a lot of people in Carter County are familiar with. Long snapper Adam Howell, a former Elizabethton High football star under legendary head coach Dave Rider, came through with a clean snap to give Chellis a good chance to make the kick.
   "I give a lot of credit to Adam Howell from Elizabethton High School," Hamilton said. "He got the snap down there and Scott Salmons got the hold down."
   Chellis will probably go down as one of the greatest kickers ever at East Tennessee State. And next year, somebody else will have to fill his shoes when they desperately need a field goal.
   If you're a true ETSU fan, Thursday night had to be a little embarrassing. With the Bucs playing on televisions throughout the southeast, a crowd estimated at 4,729 showed up to watch the Bucs defeat the Bulldogs.
   ETSU athletic director Todd Stansbury believes that ETSU's record was the primary cause for the low crowd.
   "I think obviously coming off the Appalachian State loss and the Western Carolina loss, it definitely affects the crowd," Stansbury said. But I feel we'll be in good shape, it's just a matter of getting this thing back on track."
   The Bucs primary struggle to get fans in the stands can partly blamed on the rabid support the University of Tennessee gets here, as well as Virginia Tech. But neither school was playing on this night, so there was no excuse not to show up to the dome.
   "We thought Thursday night would be a good opportunity for us," Stansbury said. "But winning cures all and getting a win tonight will set us up for a big showdown with Georgia Southern."
   That game against the top-ranked Eagles will be ETSU's next home contest, which will take place on Oct. 27. Georgia Southern features one the best players at any level in Adrian Peterson, so you're missing a treat if you don't show up to Memorial Center that night.
   People in Carter County are also missing out on supporting local product Adam Howell, who has worked so hard to get to this point and doesn't get the respect he deserves.
   And ETSU is the regional university, not the University of Tennessee. Both teams deserve support, but don't forget about the school 10 minutes away.
   It's time for people to wake up and smell the coffee. It's time to be supporting East Tennessee State.